Millions of Canadians are eligible to vote on October 21. One of the advantages of fixed federal election dates is that this gives us a lot of time to prepare. So we’ve been busy this spring and summer behind the scenes as the federal parties were gearing up for the campaign.
In partnership with our national organization, the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC), we’ve been actively working to make the federal parties aware of key issues affecting fruit and vegetable growers across the country and encouraging them to include those in their election party platforms. Here are some highlights:
Financial protection for growers – we’ve been asking for federal legislation to ensure growers get paid for produce they sell in case of buyer insolvency or bankruptcy.
Crop protection – access to safe, effective crop protection materials and a stable, predictable regulatory system that uses actual domestic water monitoring and product usage data as part of its decision-making processes are vitally important to our industry.
Labour – fruit and vegetable growers need reliable access to a steady and stable workforce, supported by legislation and a bureaucratic framework that works for growers and employees. Foreign worker programs such as the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program continue to be a very successful and a very essential lifeline for growers.
We’ve done our homework and now we need your help as growers. During the campaign is a great time to meet with the candidates in your ridings to talk about the issues important to your business and to the fruit and vegetable sector.
One-on-one meetings are great, but you can also meet the candidates at campaign stops, debates or all- candidates’ meetings throughout the campaign. Make a point of connecting with more than just one candidate; that way, regardless of who wins the seat, they’ll already have an understanding of our sector and our issues.
And although our own ridings are important, the truth of the matter is that most of our policy today is shaped by representatives from urban areas or with urban backgrounds. Less than two per cent of Canadians are involved in agriculture, and even fewer in horticulture. Farming today is also much more complex than it was even a generation ago, so understandably, most Canadians know little about the ins and outs of what we do.
If you sell directly to consumers, whether through an on-farm stand or store or at a market, or if you interact with urban voters through your involvement in your children’s school, sports activities, or your own volunteer efforts, you have an opportunity to speak up for our industry and why local food production matters.
And once the election is over, regardless of your own particular political affiliation, I encourage you to reach out to your new Member of Parliament. Meet with them at their office or invite them out to your farm and give them a tour. It’s a great way to start building that relationship, especially if you make a point of meeting with them when you don’t actually need anything from them.
You may be wondering why a provincial organization such as the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) is active at the national level, both through the Canadian Horticultural Council and our own activities. A lot of the issues important to growers are national in scope – that is, they affect growers across the country and the regulations and legislation around those issues are dealt with through federal departments and agencies.
CHC has created information documents on the key issues on its website – www.hortcouncil.ca. I encourage you to visit the site, pick a topic that’s important to you and research it, and then set up meetings with the key candidates in your riding.
Any growers who may have questions on how to handle a meeting with a candidate or local political representatives, or are looking for OFVGA perspectives on any of the files we deal with are welcome to call or email me.